The Burlington County Commissioners joined with State Senator Troy Singleton and other County officials at Historic Smithville Park on Thursday to mark a significant milestone in a County-led initiative to expand free public Wi-Fi to more areas of Burlington County.
Free Wi-Fi is now available in 20 County-owned buildings, all 15 Burlington County Library System branches and member libraries and nine County parks, including Smithville and Smith’s Woods. More than 100,000 users have connected to the public Wi-Fi service during the last year, according to the Burlington County Department of Information Technology.
“In this day and age, reliable internet is an absolute necessity. It’s needed not just at home or work, but everywhere, including our public spaces and in our parks,” said Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Tom Pullion. “Extending Burlington County’s free Wi-Fi to our parks and other buildings allows residents and visitors to stay connected and access important online applications and services. It’s an enhancement to our parks and a critical step to help ensure all residents have internet access.”
Senator Singleton, who championed legislation requiring the State to study establishing community broadband networks, said Burlington County’s free Wi-Fi expansion was a welcome step to help shrink the digital divide.
“Burlington County is making sure that the resources that are necessary for our community to stay engaged, active and connected are readily available,” said Senator Singleton. “Expanding free public Wi-Fi is something vitally important. It’s helping to bridge the digital divide in our communities and making sure that those who can’t afford or lack internet at home are not shutout of important online resources and services.”
The expansion of the Wi-Fi service to parks started this summer at the Burlington County Fairgrounds during the annual Burlington County Farm Fair. Since then, the County has extended service into Willingboro Lakes Park, Rainbow Meadow Park in Delran, Pennington Park in Delanco, Crystal Lake Park in Mansfield, Long Bridge Park in Hainesport, Arney’s Mount Park in Springfield and Historic Smithville Park and Smith’s Woods in Eastampton.
Adding Wi-Fi to the parks and other locations is part of the County’s “Burlington County Connects” initiative to offer free internet connectivity to all County-owned buildings and properties. Doing so allows residents and visitors to access online services, including those who are unable to afford reliable internet service at home.
An estimated 15,000 Burlington County households had no internet subscription at home in 2020, according to the U.S. Census.
The Wi-Fi service in the parks also allows visitors to utilize online resources, including the Burlington County Parks System App and its maps of interior and regional trails and other amenities. The app launched earlier this summer can be downloaded for free from Apple or Google Play stores or by visiting Burlington County Division of Parks and Recreation (NJ) App Store Links (myocv.com). .
During Thursday’s event at Smithville, the Commissioners and Senator were able to connect to the Burlco Wi-Fi with smartphones and vote online for their favorite scarecrow display at the park.
To log onto Burlington County’s service, turn on your device’s Wi-Fi and look for “Burlco” on the wireless network list. Select it and connect.
In addition to the parks Wi-Fi, the County also plans to equip County vehicles, such as the Hope One unit and the Burlington County Library System bookmobile and Office of Emergency Management Mobile Command Center, with equipment to create “hotspots” where computer and device users in the area can access free Wi-Fi service during special events, emergencies and other occasions.
“These improvements are possible because of our outstanding County staff, including those in our Department of Information Technology and Burlington County Parks System, and because of the support of our partners in state and federal government who help advocate for our county and our residents every day,” Pullion said. “Working together, we’re helping to make improvements that enhance our parks, bridge the digital divide and make sure all Burlington County residents have access to information and services available exclusively online.”